Are YOU Built for CRO? Personality Traits of Top Optimizers
By Tim Ash, CEO of SiteTuners
Are you the right person to drive conversion growth at your company?
Internet marketers often look to tools and technology in order to do their jobs more effectively. We are always chasing the next "new thing" and hoping that it will be the breakthrough in performance that we are looking for. However, as they say in horse racing: "You bet the jockey, not the horse."
This is also sound advice for Web professionals: forget about the skills and see if you have the right character traits to be effective at conversion rate optimization.
On some level, the qualities below can't be taught - either they are part of one's personality or they are not. Conversion rate optimization leaders share the following traits:
Many online marketers play it too safe. They are basically happy with the way that things are, and are just looking to fine-tune their campaigns.
A good CRO will actually be restless - unhappy with current performance enough to want to change it in significant ways. They will be the ones digging through analytics and finding the inefficiencies and remaining problems. They will not accept too many pats on the back for acceptable performance; rather they'll drive for excellence. This relentless skepticism is part of the nature of the best optimizers.
Being a detective is also critical. Once they have uncovered apparent problems, optimizers need to dig deeper. Like a dog with a bone, they should chew on the problems - going beyond the surface to understand their causes. Often the information needed to gather insights or make key decisions will not be readily available. The best optimizers are collaborators that will seek the help of colleagues, people outside of their company, business prospects and website visitors. They will get the answers - often creating value just by asking the right questions and following through. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable, as they'll find that others resent the extra effort required from them to assist. Tenacity, however, goes a long way in cross-department initiatives.
People are very different, and as marketers we are solving a very difficult problem: how to influence the brains of total strangers. If leaders proceed with the assumption that everyone feels and thinks like them, they will go far off the mark. Good CROs have to constantly self-monitor and silence that part of them that says "I would personally never do that."
It does not matter what they believe, it only matters what their website visitors actually do. There is often-repeated moaning in the CRO community about the out-sized influence of the "Hippo" (highest paid person's opinion) when making website changes. While this is indeed a real problem, it's important to remember we are all Hippos, and that hidden in our own assumptions are often the biggest barriers to improved performance.
Like a curious 3-year-old child, CROs have to ask an endless number of questions (often open-ended). They have to look for things that are curious in the behavior of website visitors and always seek out the things that don't make sense. This will often point the way to unspoken assumptions that one carries. CROs should cultivate a deep knowledge of psychology and neuromarketing and seek to understand basic human nature, and look for irrational motivations based on the different circumstances or past experiences of visitors. Further, online marketers should always remember they have expert-level knowledge of their website and business and they are trying to influence people with short attention spans who are not at all invested in what marketers are trying to convince them to do.
Being a CRO master requires one to constantly return to the perspective of visitors, and advocate for them.
Most online marketers may not bend beyond their comfort zone, but as a CRO they must adapt to extreme changes. Things that have worked in the past, or in another situation, will no longer serve them. Strongly held beliefs can blind marketers to seeing the things it takes to succeed or get important insights, so they have to constantly re-evaluate the tools, assumptions and mindsets behind their work.
Through a single workday, CROs may switch hats becoming a Web analyst, direct-response copywriter, user testing coordinator, market researcher, Web developer and project manager. CRO is equal parts art and science and those responsible for it within their organizations have to smoothly and appropriately transition among very diverse tasks to get the job done.
On the other side of flexibility is also the need for conviction, and there is a tension between the two. It will be very easy for others to hijack CRO projects, or to water them down. Typically the needs of website visitors will get lost in the shuffle, and submerged under the chorus of internal company needs and politics.
A CRO's clear and incisive ideas will get diluted, changed beyond recognition by a thousand well-meaning nudges from others, so they have to be clear about what they are trying to accomplish and to find the correct balance between advocating for their point of view and incorporating important considerations from others inside of the company.
A good CRO will know what battles are essential to fight, and which compromises are acceptable.
Optimizers to Follow on Twitter
Access a list of top CROs to keep up with daily at wsm.co/crotweets.
Most of us are married to our job function. With the exception of high-level managers, most are expected to work within their narrow specialty. CRO, however, requires its advocates to cross functional and departmental lines. Ultimately CRO is growth-hacking - figuring out the quickest and most efficient ways to align the goals of a company with the needs of its website visitors. Those who continue to play in their limited sandbox of digital marketing will not have the results they want or the respect of their co-workers. It is important to be a business analyst who really looks at the whole operation and figures out the major points of leverage. Maybe the value-add that CROs create has nothing to do with split testing another headline. Perhaps instead they should be advocating for a more flexible content management system, or improved email communication via marketing automation or reviewing the call-scripts and training given to the customer support team. In this regard, CROs should always communicate with their management team in the language of financial analysis and the bottom line impact of their work.
For those who noticed the lack of specific training or tools required to do a CRO's job, this is because without the mindset above, those are largely useless. Without these traits, a career in CRO might be a frustrating journey so take an inventory of your own character. Are you the right person for the job?